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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Geopolitical coercion : implications for global health Gibson, Ruth


The world order is going through a shift from multilateral to unilateral responses to international conflicts. The United Nations Security Council has provisions for resolving conflicts by way of joint efforts by member nations, but increasingly superpowers are taking action alone. The result is a global order with less international governance and minimal oversight of the humanitarian outcomes on local populations. This dissertation seeks to address this problem by systematically examining all instances of US unilateral sanctions during the period 2000 to 2020 to discern the impacts that unilateral sanctions had on the health system and population health of targeted countries, with a focus on the health of the most vulnerable subset of the population, women and children. Understanding the impacts of different types of coercion on vulnerable people is essential for designing more effective international policies that address the points of conflict or disagreement between nations while minimizing collateral damage to human rights, and health and development. Given that unilateral actions are increasing, and they affect millions of people, it is important to understand their mechanisms and impacts. Physical health metrics are one indicator of the impact of coercive measures. Although nations that impose coercive actions on others do not measure the health impacts of their sanctions on local people, health is a quantifiable metric that can be determined by analyzing health data. Forty-six countries identified as having been the target of US unilateral sanctions during the period from 2000 to 2020. A qualitative investigation of the connection between sanctions, mental health, stress, and mass trauma flows from the investigation of physical health. This study finds that the least developed nations and low-income countries have borne 95% of the burden of US sanctions, with no instances of sanctions against a high-income country. Quantitative evidence shows that sanctions slow the progress of some nations toward sustainability development goals in women’s and children’s health. A framework for the analysis of geopolitical coercion is provided to encourage coercing nations to systematically plan, analyze, evaluate, and recalibrate their actions to minimize humanitarian harm to the most vulnerable nations and peoples of the world.

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Attribution 4.0 International